Joseph James DeAngelo Jr. (born November 8, 1945) is an American serial killer, serial rapist, burglar, and former police officer who committed at least thirteen murders, 50 rapes, and 120 burglaries across California between 1973 and 1986. DeAngelo was responsible for at least three crime sprees throughout California, each of which spawned a different nickname in the press, before it became evident that they were committed by the same offender. In the San Joaquin Valley, he was known as the Visalia Ransacker before moving to the Sacramento area, where he became known as the East Area Rapist and was linked by modus operandi to additional attacks in Contra Costa County, Stockton, and Modesto. DeAngelo committed serial murders in Santa Barbara, Ventura, and Orange counties, where he was known as the Night Stalker and later the Original Night Stalker (due to serial killer Richard Ramirez also being called the "Night Stalker"). DeAngelo is believed to have taunted and threatened both victims and police in obscene phone calls and possibly written communications.
During the decades-long investigation, several suspects were cleared through DNA evidence, alibi, or other investigative methods. In 2001, after DNA testing indicated that the East Area Rapist and the Original Night Stalker were the same person, the combined acronym EARONS came into use. The case was a factor in the establishment of California's DNA database, which collects DNA from all accused and convicted felons in California and has been called second only to Virginia's in effectiveness in solving cold cases. To heighten awareness of the case, crime writer Michelle McNamara coined the name Golden State Killer in early 2013.
On June 15, 2016, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and local law-enforcement agencies held a news conference to announce a renewed nationwide effort, offering a $50,000 reward for the Golden State Killer's capture. On April 24, 2018, authorities charged 72-year-old DeAngelo with eight counts of first-degree murder, based upon DNA evidence; investigators had identified members of DeAngelo's family through forensic genetic genealogy. This was also the first announcement connecting the Visalia Ransacker crimes to DeAngelo. Owing to California's statute of limitations on pre-2017 rape cases, DeAngelo could not be charged with 1970s rapes; but he was charged in August 2018 with thirteen related kidnapping and abduction attempts. On June 29, 2020, DeAngelo pleaded guilty to multiple counts of murder and kidnapping. As part of a plea bargain that spared him the death penalty, DeAngelo also admitted to numerous crimes with which he had not been formally charged, including rapes. On August 21, 2020, DeAngelo was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
DeAngelo as an Exeter Police Department officer in 1973
Joseph James DeAngelo was born on November 8, 1945, in Bath, New York, to Joseph James DeAngelo Sr., a sergeant in the United States Army, and Kathleen Louise DeGroat. He has two younger sisters and a younger brother. A relative reported that when DeAngelo was a young child, he witnessed his seven-year-old sister's rape by two airmen in a warehouse in West Germany, where the family was stationed at the time. Following his conviction, one of DeAngelo's sisters claimed that he was abused by their father while he was growing up.
From May 1973 to August 1976, DeAngelo was a burglary unit police officer in Exeter (a town of about 5,000 people, near Visalia), having relocated from Citrus Heights. He then served in Auburn from August 1976 to July 1979, when he was arrested for shoplifting a hammer and dog repellent; he was sentenced to six months probation and fired that October. During the process of being fired, DeAngelo threatened to kill the chief of police and allegedly stalked the chief's house.
In May 1970, DeAngelo became engaged to Bonnie Jean Colwell, a classmate at Sierra College, but she broke off the relationship after DeAngelo threatened her with a gun in order to force her to marry him. In November 1973, he married Sharon Marie Huddle in Placer. In 1980, they purchased a house in Citrus Heights, where he was eventually arrested decades later. Huddle became an attorney in 1982, and they had three daughters — two were born in Sacramento, and one was born in Los Angeles before the couple separated in 1991. In July 2018, several months after DeAngelo's arrest, Huddle filed for a divorce, which was finalized the following year.
DeAngelo's employment history during the 1980s is unknown. From 1990 until his retirement in 2017, he worked as a truck mechanic at a Save Mart Supermarkets distribution center in Roseville. He was arrested in 1996 over failing to pay for gas, but the charge was dismissed.
DeAngelo's brother-in-law claimed that he casually brought up the East Area Rapist in conversation around the time of the original crimes. Neighbors reported that he frequently engaged in loud, profane outbursts. One neighbor reported that his family received a phone message from DeAngelo threatening to "deliver a load of death" because of their barking dog. He was living with a daughter and granddaughter at the time of his arrest.
A map of attacks attributed to the Golden State Killer
It was long suspected that the training ground of the criminal who became the East Area Rapist was Visalia, (although earlier Visalia crimes dating back as early as May 1973 and other sprees like that of the "Cordova Cat Burglar", as well as burglaries that took place after the McGowen shooting, are now suspected to be linked as well). Over a period of twenty months, DeAngelo is believed to have been responsible for one murder and around 120 burglaries.
In late April 2018, the Visalia chief of police stated that while there was no DNA linking DeAngelo to the Central Valley cases, his department had other evidence that played a role in the investigation; and he was "confident that the Visalia Ransacker has been captured". Though the statutes of limitations for the burglaries have each expired, DeAngelo was formally charged on August 13, 2018, with the first degree murder of Claude Snelling in 1975. In 2020, DeAngelo pleaded guilty to the Snelling murder.
A composite sketch of the Visalia Ransacker
The first recorded ransacking occurred on March 19, 1974, when a sum of $50 in coins was stolen from a piggy-bank. Most of the Ransacker's activities involved breaking into houses, rifling through or vandalizing the owner's possessions, scattering women's underclothes, and stealing a range of low-value items while often ignoring banknotes and higher-valued items in plain sight. The Ransacker would also often arrange or display items in the house. Items emptied included piggy banks and coin jars; and stolen items often included Blue Chip Stamps, foreign or historic coins, and personal items (such as single earrings, cuff-links, rings, or medallions) but also included six weapons and various types of ammunition. Multiple same-day ransackings were common as well, including twelve separate incidents on November 30, 1974.
scaling fences and moving through established routes such as parks, walkways, ditches, and trails
attempting to pry open multiple points of entry, particularly windows
leaving multiple points of escape open, especially windows, as well as the house, garage, and garden doors
moving removed window screens onto beds or into bedrooms
placing "warning items" such as dishes or bottles against doors and on door handles
wearing gloves (given the absence of fingerprint evidence)
On September 11, 1975, DeAngelo broke into the home of Claude Snelling, 45, at 532 Whitney Lane (now South Whitney Street). Snelling, a journalism professor at the College of the Sequoias, had previously chased a prowler discovered under his daughter's window around 10:00 p.m. on February 5, 1975. On September 11, he was awakened around 2:00 a.m. by strange noises. Upon leaving his bedroom, Snelling ran through the open back door and confronted a ski-masked intruder in his carport attempting to kidnap his daughter, who had been subdued with threats of being stabbed or shot. Snelling was then shot twice, staggered back into the house to his wife, and later died. After the shooting, the assailant fled the scene, leaving behind a stolen bicycle at 615 Redwood Street. After the murder, Beth Snelling, 16, a cheerleader at Mt. Whitney High School, underwent hypnosis in order to gather further details. The Visalia police also committed more resources to apprehending the Ransacker, and a $4,000 reward (equivalent to $19,366 in 2021) was posted. Nighttime stakeouts were set up near houses that he had previously prowled, but the ransackings continued.
Around 8:30 p.m. on December 12, 1975, a masked man entered the back yard of a house at 1505 W. Kaweah Avenue, near where the Ransacker had been reported to frequent. When Detective William McGowen (on stakeout inside the garage) attempted to detain the man, the suspect shrieked, removed his mask, and feigned surrender after McGowen fired a warning shot. However, after jumping the fence to the house at 1501, he also pulled out a revolver with his left hand and fired once near McGowen's face, shattering his flashlight. Nearby officers rushed to aid McGowen, and the shooter was able to escape. Items collected as evidence included the flashlight, tennis shoe tracks, and dropped loot, namely Blue Chip Stamps and a blue sock full of coins.
East Area Rapist (1976–1979)
Three sketches on which the FBI focused when it reopened the case in June 2016
DeAngelo moved to the Sacramento area in 1976, where his crimes escalated from burglary to rape. The crimes initially centered on the then-unincorporated areas of Carmichael, Citrus Heights, and Rancho Cordova, east of Sacramento. His initial modus operandi was to stalk middle-class neighborhoods at night in search of women who were alone in one-story homes, usually near a school, creek, trail, or other open space that would provide a quick escape. He was seen a number of times but always successfully fled; on one occasion, he shot and seriously wounded a young pursuer.:187–188
Most victims had seen (or heard) a prowler on their property before the attacks, and many had experienced break-ins. Police believed that the offender would conduct extensive reconnaissance in a targeted neighborhood — looking into windows and prowling in yards — before selecting a home to attack. It was believed that he sometimes entered the homes of future victims to unlock windows, unload guns, and plant ligatures for later use. He frequently telephoned future victims, sometimes for months in advance, to learn their daily routines.
Although DeAngelo originally targeted women alone in their homes or with children, he eventually preferred attacking couples. His usual method was to break in through a window or sliding glass door and awaken the sleeping occupants with a flashlight, threatening them with a handgun. Victims were subsequently bound with ligatures (often shoelaces) that he found or brought with him, then blindfolded and gagged with towels that he had ripped into strips. The female victim was usually forced to tie up her male companion before she was bound. The bindings were often so tight that the victims' hands were numb for hours after being untied.:434 He then separated the couple, often stacking dishes on the male's back and threatening to kill everyone in the house if he heard them rattle. He would move the woman to the living room and rape her, often repeatedly.
A victim described the East Area Rapist's face as young and round, with wide eyes and a broad mouth.
DeAngelo sometimes spent hours in the home ransacking closets and drawers, eating food in the kitchen, drinking beer, raping the woman again, or making additional threats. Victims sometimes thought he had left the house before he "jump[ed] from the darkness". He typically stole items — often personal objects and items of little value, but occasionally cash and firearms. He then crept away, leaving victims uncertain if he had left. He was believed to escape on foot through a series of yards and then use a bicycle to go home or to a car, making extensive use of parks, schoolyards, creek beds, and other open spaces that kept him off the street.
The East Area Rapist operated in Sacramento County from the first attacks in June 1976 until May 1977. After a three-month gap, he struck in nearby San Joaquin County in September before returning to Sacramento for all but one of the next ten attacks. The rapist attacked five times during the summer of 1978 in Stanislaus and Yolo counties before disappearing again for three months. Attacks then moved primarily to Contra Costa County in October and lasted until July 1979.
A young Sacramento couple — Brian Maggiore, a military policeman at Mather Air Force Base, and his wife Katie Maggiore — were walking their dog in the Rancho Cordova area on the night of February 2, 1978, near where five East Area Rapist attacks had occurred. The Maggiores fled after a confrontation in the street but were chased down and shot to death. Some investigators suspected that they had been murdered by the East Area Rapist because of their proximity to the other attacks' locations, and a shoelace was found nearby. The FBI announced on June 15, 2016, that it was confident that the East Area Rapist had murdered the Maggiores. On June 29, 2020, DeAngelo entered a plea of guilty to these murders.
Original Night Stalker (1979–1986)
Shortly after the rape committed on July 5, 1979, DeAngelo moved to southern California and began killing his victims, first striking in Santa Barbara County in October. The attacks lasted until 1981 (with a lone 1986 attack). Only the couple in the first attack survived, alerting neighbors and forcing the intruder to flee; the other victims were murdered by gunshot or bludgeoning. Since DeAngelo was not linked to these crimes for decades, he was known as the Night Stalker in the area, before being renamed the Original Night Stalker after serial killer Richard Ramirez received the former nickname.
On October 1, an intruder broke in and tied up a Goleta couple.:434 Alarmed by hearing him say, "I'll kill 'em" to himself,:435 the man and woman tried to escape when he left the room; and the woman screamed. Realizing that the alarm had been raised, the intruder fled on a bicycle. A neighbor (an FBI agent) responded to the noise and pursued the perpetrator, who abandoned the bicycle and a knife and fled on foot through local backyards.:435 The attack was later linked to the Offerman–Manning murders by shoe prints and twine used to bind the victims.:438
On December 30, 44-year-old Robert Offerman and 35-year-old Debra Alexandra Manning were found shot to death at Offerman's condominium on Avenida Pequena in Goleta. Offerman's bindings were untied, indicating that he had lunged at the attacker. Neighbors had heard gunshots. Paw prints of a large dog were found at the scene, leading to speculation that the killer may have brought one with him.:446 The killer also broke into the vacant adjoining residence and stole a bicycle, later found abandoned on a street north of the scene, from a third residence in the complex.
On March 13, 33-year-old Charlene Smith and 43-year-old Lyman Smith were found murdered in their Ventura home; Charlene Smith had been raped. A log from a woodpile on the side of the house was used to bludgeon the victims to death.:440 Their wrists and ankles had been bound with drapery cord.:441 An unusual Chinese knot, a diamond knot, was used on Charlene's wrists;:441 the same knot was noted in the East Area Rapist attacks, at least one confirmed case of which was publicly known. The murderer was, therefore, briefly given the name Diamond Knot Killer.
On August 19, 24-year-old Keith Eli Harrington and 27-year-old Patrice Briscoe Harrington were found bludgeoned to death in their home on Cockleshell Drive in Dana Point's Niguel Shores gated community. Patrice Harrington had also been raped. Although there was evidence that the Harringtons' wrists and ankles were bound, no murder weapon or ligatures were found at the scene. The Harringtons had been married for three months at the time of their deaths. Patrice was a nurse in Irvine, and Keith was a medical student at UC Irvine. Keith's brother Bruce later spent nearly $2 million supporting California Proposition 69, authorizing DNA collection from all California felons and certain other criminals.
On February 6, 28-year-old Manuela Witthuhn was raped and murdered in her Irvine home. Although Witthuhn's body had signs of being tied before she was bludgeoned, no murder weapon or ligatures were found. Though the victim was married, her husband was away, hospitalized; and she was alone at the time of the attack. Witthuhn's television was found in the backyard, possibly the killer's attempt to make the crime appear to be a botched robbery.
On July 27, 35-year-old Cheri Domingo and 27-year-old Gregory Sanchez became the Original Night Stalker's tenth and eleventh murder victims. Both were attacked in Domingo's residence on Toltec Way in Goleta:444 (several blocks south of Robert Offerman's condominium), where she was living temporarily; it was owned by a relative and up for sale. The offender entered the house through a small bathroom window. Sanchez had not been tied:445 and was shot and wounded in the cheek before he was bludgeoned to death with a garden tool.
Some believe that Sanchez may have realized he was dealing with the man responsible for the Offerman–Manning murders and tried to tackle the killer rather than be tied up. Again, no neighbors responded to the gunshot.:445 Sanchez's head was covered with clothes pulled from the closet.:444 Domingo was raped and bludgeoned; bruises on her wrists and ankles indicated that she had been tied,:445 although the restraints were missing. A piece of shipping twine was found near the bed, and fibers from an unknown source were scattered over her body. Authorities believed that the attacker may have worked as a painter or in a similar job at the Calle Real Shopping Centre.
On May 4, 18-year-old Janelle Lisa Cruz was found after she was raped and bludgeoned to death in her Irvine home. Her family was on vacation in Mexico at the time of the attack. A pipe wrench, reported missing by Cruz's stepfather, was thought to be the murder weapon.:458
Initially, investigators in respective jurisdictions did not think the southern California murders were connected. A Sacramento detective strongly believed that the East Area Rapist was responsible for the Goleta attacks, but the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office attributed them to a local career criminal who was later murdered. Unaware of the Goleta murders, local police in surrounding jurisdictions followed false leads related to men who were close to the female victims. One person, later cleared, was charged with two of the murders. Many years later, the cases were linked almost entirely by DNA testing.
"Excitement's Crave" poem
In December 1977, someone claiming to be the East Area Rapist sent a poem, "Excitement's Crave", to The Sacramento Bee, the Sacramento mayor's office, and television station KVIE. On December 11, a masked man eluded pursuit by law-enforcement personnel after alerting authorities by telephone that he would strike on Watt Avenue that night.
All those mortal's surviving birth / Upon facing maturity,
Take inventory of their worth / To prevailing society.
Choosing values becomes a task; / Oneself must seek satisfaction.
The selected route will unmask / Character when plans take action.
Accepting some work to perform / At fixed pay, but promise for more,
Is a recognized social norm, / As is decorum, seeking lore.
Achieving while others lifting / Should be cause for deserving fame.
Leisure tempts excitement seeking, / What's right and expected seems tame.
"Jessie James" has been seen by all, / And "Son of Sam" has an author.
Others now feel temptations call. / Sacramento should make an offer.
To make a movie of my life / That will pay for my planned exile.
Just now I'd like to add the wife / Of a Mafia lord to my file.
Your East Area Rapist
And deserving pest.
See you in the press or on T.V.:p. 304
Homework pages and punishment map (December 9, 1978)
Front of "Mad is the Word"
Reverse of "Mad is the Word"
Front of the "punishment" map
Reverse of the map, with the word "punishment" scrawled across the page
During the investigation in Danville of the 42nd attack, investigators discovered three sheets of notebook paper near where a suspicious vehicle had reportedly been parked. They believe the pages were dropped accidentally, perhaps by falling out of a bag. The first sheet appears to be a homework essay on General George Armstrong Custer.
The second sheet contains a journal-style entry describing a teacher who made students write lines, which the author found humiliating:
"Mad is the word, the word that reminds me of 6th grade. I hated that year ... I wish I had know what was going to be going on during my 6th-grade year, the last and worst year of elementary school. Mad is the word that remains in my head about my dreadful year as a 6th grader. My Madness was one that was caused by disapointments that hurt me very much. Dissapointments from my teacher, such as feild trips that were planed, then canncled. My 6th-grade teacher gave me a lot of dissapointments which made me very mad and made me built a state of haterd in my heart, no one ever let me down that hard before and I never hated anyone as much as I did him. Disapointment wasn't the only reason that made me mad in my sixth-grade class, another was getting in trouble at school espeically talking thats what really bugged me was writing sentances, those awful sentance that my teacher made ... me write, hours and hours Id sit and write 50-100-150 sentance day and night I write those dreadful Paragraphs which embarrased me and more inportant it made me ashamed of myself which in turn, deep down in side made me realize that writing sentance wasn't fair it wasn't fair to make me suffer like that, it just wasn't fair to make me sit and wright until my bones aked, until my hand felt every horrid pain it ever had and as I wrote, I got mader and mader until I cried, I cried because I was ashamed I cried because I was discusted, I cried because I was mad, and I cried for myself, kid who kept on having to write those dane sentances. My Angryness from Sixth grade will scar my memory for life and I will be ashamed for my sixth grade year forever"
On the last sheet was a hand-drawn map of what appears to be a suburban neighborhood, with the word "punishment" scrawled across the reverse side. Investigators were unable to identify the area depicted in the map, although the artist clearly had knowledge of architectural layout and landscape design. According to Detective Larry Pool, the map is a fantasy location representing the rapist's desired striking ground.
"I'm the East Side Rapist" (March 18, 1977)
On March 18, 1977, the Sacramento County Sheriff's Office received three calls from a man claiming to be the East Area Rapist; none were recorded. The first two calls, received at 4:15 and 4:30 p.m., were identical and ended with the caller laughing and hanging up. The final call came in at 5:00 p.m., with the caller saying: "I'm the East Side Rapist and I have my next victim already stalked and you guys can't catch me."
"You're never gonna catch me" (December 2, 1977)
A man claiming to be the rapist called the Sacramento Police Department, saying: "You're never gonna catch me, East Area Rapist, you dumb fuckers; I'm gonna fuck again tonight. Be careful!" The call was recorded and later released. As with the previous call, the next victim was attacked that night.
"Merry Christmas" (December 9, 1977)
During the 1977 Christmas season, a previous victim received a phone call that she attributed to her attacker. The caller said, "Merry Christmas, it's me again!":301
"Watt Avenue" (December 10, 1977)
Shortly before 10:00 p.m. on December 10, 1977, Sacramento authorities received two identical calls, saying, "I am going to hit tonight. Watt Avenue." Both were recorded, and the caller was identified as the same person who placed the call on December 2. Law-enforcement patrols were increased that night; and at 2:30 a.m., a masked man eluded officers after being seen bicycling on the Watt Avenue bridge. When spotted again at 4:30 a.m., he discarded the bicycle and fled on foot. The bicycle had been stolen.
"Gonna kill you" (January 2, 1978)
The first known rape victim received a wrong-number call asking for "Ray" on January 2, 1978. The call was recorded, and police suspect that it may be the same caller who made a threatening call to her later that evening. That call was also recorded and identified by the victim as the voice of her assailant. The caller said, "Gonna kill you ... gonna kill you ... gonna kill you ... bitch ... bitch ... bitch ... bitch ... fuckin' whore."
Counseling service (January 6, 1978)
A man claiming to be the East Area Rapist called the Contact Counseling Service and said, "I have a problem. I need help because I don't want to do this anymore." After a short conversation the caller said, "I believe you are tracing this call" and hung up.:310–315
Later calls (1982–1991)
In 1982, a previous victim received a call at her place of work — a restaurant — during which the rapist threatened to rape her again. According to Contra Costa County investigator Paul Holes, the rapist must have chanced to patronize the restaurant and recognized his victim there.
In 1991, a previous victim received a phone call from the perpetrator and spoke with him for one minute. She could hear a woman and children in the background, leading to speculation that he had a family.
Final call (2001)
On April 6, 2001, one day after an article in The Sacramento Bee linked the Original Night Stalker and the East Area Rapist, a victim of the rapist received a call from him; he asked, "Remember when we played?"
This billboard advertisement appeared nationwide in June 2016.
Before officially connecting the Original Night Stalker to the East Area Rapist in 2001, some law-enforcement officials (particularly from the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department) sought to link the Goleta cases as well. The links were primarily due to similarities in modus operandi. One of the already-linked Original Night Stalker double murders occurred in Ventura, 40 miles (64 km) southeast of Goleta; and the remaining murders were committed in Orange County, an additional 90 miles (140 km) southeast. In 2001, several rapes in Contra Costa County believed to have been committed by the East Area Rapist were linked by DNA to the Smith, Harrington, Whithuhn, and Cruz murders. A decade later, DNA evidence indicated that the Domingo–Sanchez murders were also committed by the East Area Rapist (also identified as the Golden State Killer).
On June 15, 2016, the FBI released further information related to the crimes, including new composite sketches and crime details; a $50,000 reward was also announced. The initiative included a national database to support law enforcement's investigating of the crimes and to handle tips and information. Eventually, "through the use of genetic genealogy searching on GEDmatch, investigators identified distant relatives of DeAngelo — including family members directly related to his great-great-great-great grandfather dating back to the 1800s. Based on this information, investigators built about 25 different family trees. The tree that eventually linked to [DeAngelo] alone contained approximately 1,000 people. Over the course of a few months, investigators used other clues like age, sex, and place of residence to rule out suspects populating these trees, eliminating suspects one by one until only DeAngelo remained."
During the investigation, several people were considered and later eliminated as suspects:
Brett Glasby, from Goleta, was considered a suspect by Santa Barbara County investigators. He was murdered in Mexico in 1982, before the murder of Janelle Cruz; this eliminated him as a suspect.
Joe Alsip, a friend and business partner of the victim Lyman Smith. Alsip's pastor said that Alsip had confessed to him during a family-counseling session. Alsip was arraigned for the Smith murders in 1982, but the charges were later dropped, and his innocence was confirmed by DNA testing in 1997.
On April 24, 2018, Sacramento County Sheriff's deputies arrested DeAngelo. He was charged with eight counts of first-degree murder with special circumstances. On May 10, the Santa Barbara County District Attorney's office charged DeAngelo with four additional counts of first-degree murder.
Identification of DeAngelo had begun four months earlier when officials, led by detective Paul Holes and FBI lawyer Steve Kramer, uploaded the killer's DNA profile from a Ventura County rape kit to the personal genomics website GEDmatch. The website identified ten to twenty people who had the same great-great-great grandparents as the Golden State Killer; a team of five investigators working with genealogist Barbara Rae-Venter used this list to construct a large family tree. From this tree, they established two suspects; one was ruled out by a relative's DNA test, leaving DeAngelo the main suspect.
On April 18, a DNA sample was surreptitiously collected from the door handle of DeAngelo's car; another sample was later collected from a tissue found in DeAngelo's curbside garbage can. Both were matched to samples associated with Golden State Killer crimes. Since DeAngelo's arrest, some commentators have raised concerns about the ethics of the secondary use of personally identifiable information.
DeAngelo made a confession of sorts after his arrest that cryptically referred to an inner personality named "Jerry", who had forced him to commit the wave of crimes that ended abruptly in 1986. According to Sacramento County prosecutor Thien Ho, DeAngelo said the following to himself while alone in a police interrogation room after his arrest in April 2018: "I didn't have the strength to push him out. He made me. He went with me. It was like in my head, I mean, he's a part of me. I didn't want to do those things. I pushed Jerry out and had a happy life. I did all those things. I destroyed all their lives. So now I've got to pay the price."
DeAngelo could not be charged with rapes or burglaries, as the statute of limitations had expired for those offenses, but he was charged with 13 counts of murder and 13 counts of kidnapping. DeAngelo was arraigned in Sacramento on August 23, 2018. In November 2018, prosecutors from six involved counties collectively estimated that the case could cost taxpayers $20 million and last ten years. At an April 10, 2019, court proceeding, prosecutors announced that they would seek the death penalty, and the judge ruled that cameras could be allowed inside the courtroom during the trial. On March 4, 2020, DeAngelo offered to plead guilty if the death penalty was taken off the table, which was not accepted at the time. On June 29, as part of a plea bargain to avoid the death penalty, DeAngelo pleaded guilty to thirteen counts of first-degree murder and special circumstances (including murder committed during burglaries and rapes), as well as thirteen counts of kidnapping. On August 21, 2020, DeAngelo received multiple consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole. DeAngelo offered a brief apology after listening to days of pre-sentencing victim impact statements: "I've listened to all your statements. Each one of them, and I'm truly sorry to everyone I have hurt. Thank you, your honor."